It's Big Band Night, which means a live, 25-piece band backing up the performers tonight. That of course represents the greatest challenge the top eight have ever faced, but then everything does. Also, they're dedicating their performances to their loved ones, because it's Thanksgiving week. Which also makes this the greatest challenge they've ever faced. Can't they ever just let these kids sing for fun? Oh, right they did that already a few weeks ago, by mistake.
The orchestra plays Mario out onstage with that familiar big-band standard, "Live and Let Die." They sound pretty great, I have to admit. Very loud and brassy. Just to show everyone how it's done, Michael Bublé comes out and performs "You Make Me Feel So Young" with the band, showing off a lot more facial and bodily tics than Carlos Guevara ever could have dreamed of displaying. And I think he gets to sing the whole song, too. Fewer contestants, more filler! Afterward, Mario tells us that the acts will be singing against each other later. Which is going to be a lot easier than singing against Michael Bublé, I'm currently thinking. Apparently he's been a guest mentor this week as well. Did you know he has a new album out? How's that for a coincidence?
Demi's Girls category is starting off the night with Rion Paige. She says this is her first time singing with a full band, as well as her first crack at doing choreography. She's dedicating this performance to her mother, which is fine with me because Rion's mom is one of the most charismatic people on the show this season. Rion's number is an up-tempo version of "Swingin'" by John Anderson, which is a pretty clever move. It'll shut Simon up about her not doing any country songs, while still keeping in the theme, because look, swing! It's not so much choreography as blocking, but at least it gets her and her headset mic moving around and she sounds great as always.
Kelly gives her credit for the way she works the stage while keeping the vocals strong. Paulina gushes about how wonderful it was, and Simon asks if she chose the song, because it was the absolutely perfect choice. He thinks it was one of her best, "in a way," whatever that means Demi thinks it was her actual best, and warns Simon to look out. Simon looks too happy to be threatened right now, probably because he gets to sign the winner no matter who it ends up being.
Simon introduces his country-boy-band-Frankengroup Restless Road even more awkwardly than I just did, and we flash back to last week's rough performance from them. They're trying to come back from that, and all three of them are dedicating tonight's performance to Andrew's uncle Bill. It seems he was a fellow music-lover and an inspiration to Andrew, and was killed in a plane crash at an air show. So if you don't vote for them you have no heart and hate America. Their "big band" number is "Life Is a Highway" by Tom Cochrane via Rascal Flatts, which is big band in the sense that horns have been added. Not a great song choice, and they're not sounding their best either. Having been burned on the harmonies last week, they seem to be trying to avoid them as much as possible, and they completely fail to take advantage of Zach's deep voice.